When we were first tasked with rebuilding the trade tariff tool, my initial reaction was ‘that looks fairly straight forward’ and on the surface, it is. However it’s only when you delve into the underlying data that you start to understand the true complexity of the system. But before we go into that, the question most people ask when presented with the tariff is, what’s it for?
Let’s pretend that I wanted to import 20 bags of coffee from Colombia. As part of the customs declaration procedure, I would need to declare the commodity code for the coffee (known as the TARIC code) and the tariff tool allows you to find that. It also gives you details of duty you’ll have to pay and any legal restriction or documents you might need to present. So in the case of Colombian coffee if it’s roasted and not decaffeinated, the code would be 0901210000 and because Colombia happens to be in a country group with a preferential tariff, there is no extra duty to pay.
The EU publishes the TARIC code data to its member states and the UK then overlays its own tax rates and restrictions. The application we are building has to integrate the data from TARIC and the UK Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight system (CHIEF), in order to display the correct data for the UK tariff.
What has been done so far?
- EU TARIC data schema (see below)
- Searching by commodity code and description
- A new user interface
- Integrated the application within GOV.UK
The technical bit
The new Trade Tariff is comprised up of two applications, an API provider and a web front-end. Both applications are built on Ruby on Rails, using MySQL for the database and ElasticSearch for search.
As the schema is complex we are using Sequel to do custom SQL queries, below is a ERD diagram of part of the database schema:
What’s up coming next?
As ever, this first release of the product is a “beta release”. We know there are gaps, which we will address by adding to and improving the data and product features in the coming weeks. For now, please continue to access the existing trade tariff tool for real-world usage. In the next few weeks we’ll be implementing:
- UK specific measures
- Daily data updates
- Chapter notes
- Improving search with common synonyms for commodities (e.g. searching for “laptop computer” should return the commodity code 8471 30 00 00)
Feedback and user testing
We’re releasing this now because we want to learn how people use the new Trade Tariff tool and make improvements where necessary. We’ll be doing structured user testing using qualitative and quantitative methods, including several sessions with users of the existing trade tariff tool. We’d also love your feedback to help us work out out what needs to be improved. Tell us what you think in the comments or by sending us an email.